Forethought is humanity’s most defining characteristic; it is built into us with our self-created ability to speak. With our imaginations developed by our learning of cultural wisdom through speaking with one another, our ability soars through time and space vastly beyond what any single person could ever aspire to learn in a single lifetime.
When man first spoke to man, how great the stride,
For what was learned by one was help to all;
And one in need could beckon to his side
Another’s hand to help this first man’s fall.
Then we did learn to write and bind our thoughts
Through time and space, on parchment, stone and clay,
Thus we may recall what was once forgot,
And long dead men live with us here today.
But these dead men are soon to die for good,
And live no more in future thoughts of man;
For past thoughts can not be understood,
When there is no more man to understand.
Although the helping hand seemed quite kind,
In the end it brought the end of mankind.
As a world culture, and a humanity-wide society, we must learn to cultivate and reward forward thinking people even more than is already done. Our institutions have done a satisfactory job in the past, and we have grown enormously successful as a species because of our forethought. The patent and copyright systems reward creative thought, and that has permitted individuals to expect great rewards for years of personal exertion, and therefore they willingly put forth those efforts. Also, the democratic political system requires accountability at specified intervals of time, which compels politicians to think ahead so they may be able to justify their actions at the end of their term of office. If they perform poorly at this projected forethought they are soon beaten out of office by competitors.
Some of the responsibility for large-scale social forethought must devolve to the common person, because it ultimately is they who choose their leaders, and it is they who purchase the products of the creators of new products and thus give them power to create further new things. Primarily, it is the young women who define the direction of the genetic drift of humanity and the direction of social change and men who seek to find and implement that change.
We must find ways to reward forethought and cultivate those capable of it.
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The 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami (at 38.322 142.369), 129 km off Japan caused catastrophic devastation, neither because of the quake itself, nor because of the tsunami. The property damage and the horrendous loss of life was because the cities and atomic reactors along the ocean did not have adequate sea-walls to defend against a 9.0 Richter quake and the resultant 10 meter tsunami. Many Japanese cities do have these walls, but a wall in one city does no good for a city up the coast which doesn’t have one.
Docking ships at a wharf a kilometer out into deeper water, well beyond the sea-wall, would have allowed those ships to simply ride over the tsunami swell and remain totally unharmed. Also, in a place known to be on a tsunami flood plain there should be solidly built ten meter high retreat towers within a ten minute walk of everyone. This could be a commercially used building, but it would be clearly marked with an external open staircase to the roof and on the side away from the harbor.
Whoever authorized the construction of the fail-possible reactors where they could be hit by a massive earthquake, or a tsunami, certainly deserves a Darwin Award. The world may need the power of atomic reactors, but they must be built in such a way that they can not fail catastrophically. How obvious can something be?